How To Save Up To $18.000 A Year Teaching English In China While Traveling

Living in China and working as an English teacher, like us, might not only be a great cultural experience, unforgettable adventure and travel dreams come true, but also a great source of income. I have mentioned before that my full-time job as an English teacher in one of private Chinese kindergartens allows me to support my long-term voyages across Asia, live here at high standard and still be able to save some money. You can find English teaching jobs in China here on eTramping.

IMG 0441
A typical Chinese classroom. Minimal. Very Feng Sui.

If you have ever considered going to China and working full-time, here is how much money you can approximately earn within a year, what your spending might be and how much in total you can save:

Income in China

Current rate

1 RMB (Chinese Yuan) = $0.16

1 RMB = 0.12 euro

1) Full-time Teaching Job

The salary for English teachers in China vary a lot. It depends on your teaching experience, references, gender, nationality and location. If you don’t have neither TESOL nor TEFL certification, you are an inexperienced teacher, and your university degree is not related to education, you will obviously get paid less, but you can still get a job. Moreover, female teachers are typically paid more than male teachers because they are considered as more patient with kids and more reliable. Nationality, in most cases, does not play a major role- as long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English – you shouldn’t have any problems finding a job as a teacher. If you’re not Caucasian, you may find it more difficult to find an English teaching job in China, but we know great many people who managed to do that, so don’t give up. To increase your chances you should take a TEFL course and prove to the schools that you’re qualified teacher. Obviously, the salaries in bigger cities are much higher than in small towns/countryside (the cost of living is also higher).

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Don’t think that the higher salary is impossible to obtain, either. If any of this sounds like something you are interested in pursuing, then by all means start working toward a degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TESOL). As long as you study hard and make sure to be conscious of all career opportunities both in and out of school, you should be all set. Both me and Cez did our TEFL accreditation and we’re happy we did.

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Adorable Chinese students.

Inexperience teachers can earn between RMB 6.000 and RMB 10.000 per month. RMB 6.000 is the absolute minimum for 16 x 45-minute classes so if you ever get offered less, you can start laughing (ironically). This amount of money can be offered in small towns and rural areas where you don’t need to spend much on food and transportation. If you are TESOL/TEFL certified teacher in a bigger city, your salary should be between RMB 8.000 –RMB 15.000 (again per 16 x 45-minute classes). The more hours you work, the more money you can get. For instance, an average salary of experienced foreign teacher working up to 35-40 hours (including office hours) would be RMB 14.000 or more.

2) Private Teaching

Apart from working in a school/learning center or kindergarten, you can also do some private teaching in your apartment. Most weekends are off work (Mondays and Tuesdays if you work in a Learning Centre) so if the time allows, you can teach a few kids at home. An hour (60 minutes) of private English tutorial is between RMB 150-RMB 300. Let’s say you work 2 extra hours on Saturday and 3 extra hours on Sunday and you charge RMB 150/h, you can earn up to RMB 3.000 per month.

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 3) Winter and Summer Camps

During the summer and winter you can also work as a teacher. There are summer and winter camps held in all provinces in China. You will be teaching for 14 days in a row, 4-5 classes a day and your pay should be between RMB 8.000 and RMB 10.000. These courses are very intensive, but you can earn more money in 2 weeks than usually in a month and still have another 2 weeks off.

Total earning teaching English in China

RMB 9.000 (your salary) + RMB 3.000 (private teaching) = RMB 12.000/ month, RMB 120.000/ 10 month + RMB 18.000 (summer and winter camp, RMB 9.000 each)= RMB 138.000 = $21.345.


1. Accommodation

The good news is that almost all Chinese schools provide a free accommodation (fully equipped) for their teachers. It does not matter what province you work in and how many teaching hours you do weekly, you will be given a free apartment with free Wi-Fi and no bills (electricity, water, etc.) to pay monthly. Some schools might ask you to pay your bills, but it should not be more than RMB 300 per month (up to RMB 500 during the summer for the air-conditioning).

Our flat in Dongguan. Small but cozy.

 2. Food

Again, most of the schools offers free meals during your working hours. If you work early in the morning you can have a free breakfast and lunch (rice/ noodles, meat and veggies) in a school canteen and some snacks in between (a piece of fruit, cookies). If you do late shifts you can stay after your class to have a nice dinner with your colleagues.

Photo 4
A serving of Baozi – traditional Chinese dumplings.

Don’t worry if you don’t want to eat at work as dining out in local restaurants is not expensive at all. A typical Chinese breakfast (3 Chinese dumplings, porridge or noodle soup) will cost you between RMB 3 and RMB 10, you should not pay more than RMB10 per lunch and the same amount of money for your dinner. Add a bottle of water (RMB2) and a can of coke (RMB3) and your total food cost per month should not be more than RMB 1.200.

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Food spending

  • Breakfast – RMB 8
  • Lunch – RMB 10
  • Dinner – RMB 10
  • Drinks – RMB 7
  • Total: RMB35 x 30 days = RMB 1.050/ month, RMB 12.600/ year = $2.068.

3) Travel

If you are a budget traveller, China will be your paradise! It’s not only massive, extremely beautiful and challenging in terms of the language, but also very affordable. You can easily travel by bus from one city to another (an average bus ride costs RMB 30-RMB 100) or by train if you want to get from one province to another (one-way sitting ticket costs between RMB 80 – RMB 200). In some major tourist cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Zhangjiajie or Chongqing, you can easily find a budget hostel for which you can pay RMB 30 per night (dorms). There are also a few places such as Fenghuang and Dongguan where hostels are not very common and you need to spend more money like RMB100 per night.

Photo 2
The Temple of Heaven, Beijing.

Let’s say you want to go for one weekend trip every month:

  • Train tickets – RMB 400
  • Hostel RMB100/night 3x RMB100 = RMB 300
  • Food RMB 35×3= RMB 105
  • Other expenses (taxi, souvenir, ticket entrance to different attractions) RMB 400 = RMB 1205/month, RMB14.460/ year = $2.374.

Summing Up A Year in China


Your Spending/ Year:

  • Accommodation – RMB 0
  • Food – RMB 12.600
  • Travel – RMB 14.460
  • Total: RMB 27.060

Your Earnings/ Year: RMB 138.000

Your Savings/ Year: RMB 138.00- RMB 27.060= RMB 110.940 = $18.215.90

Now tell me…

Is it worth working in China? :-)


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Picture of Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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82 thoughts on “How To Save Up To $18.000 A Year Teaching English In China While Traveling”

  1. Avatar of Mike

    Agness, it might not be a dream come true for you but it certainly is for your students that they are blessed with you as their teacher! They will remember it their entire lives and such and imprint you will have brought upon thier lives! That makes total sense on female teachers being paid more. Sorry, Cez. The free accommodations part is awesome…way to plan this out! Can I have an extra helping of dumplings, please? Thank you :)I absolutely love what you two are giving to those kids! You and Cez rock!! :)

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Thank you Mike so much. I really appreciate your kind words. I’m a qualified TESOL teacher so this job is a dream come true for me. Right after I entered my university, I had known I wanted to teach in Asia so I’m more than happy to develop myself as a teacher, traveller and blogger. It’s been so much fun I can’t even describe :).

    2. Avatar of Fran

      I was wondering must you have a degree to teach there? and are you legally allowed teach private classes at weekends? great blog! :) thanks :)

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Hey Renuka. Thanks for stopping by. It’s great to see you here. I agree, teaching is in demand everywhere, especially in Asia :).

  2. Avatar of Rika | Cubicle Throwdown

    This is a great informative post Agness!! I love that you break it down with real prices… too many people are vague about it. I don’t think I could stand living in China but I hope to teach English in Japan sometime in the next few years. I hope I’ll save that much money!

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Hey Rika, thanks! I was thinking about teaching in South Korea. Audrey of That Backpacker really made me wanna go there for 6 months, we will see.

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Jess. Yes, you can save a lot if you work your ass off, but we spend much more on travels + we don’t teach during the winter and summer breaks as we travel either back home or around Asia. So in general it’s not that much money saved, but it’s still something :).

  3. Avatar of Emily

    I’m so glad you posted this, Agness!! There is often a common misconception that it’s nearly impossible to save money whilst teaching in China since they don’t pay as much as they do in Japan, Korea, etc. I loved the way you broke it down and gave the facts! I found that while I was there, I was able to pay off my student loans, travel a good deal and still come home with a few thousand dollars in savings. Not a bad deal!

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Hi Emily. If you live like a local and do some extra classes you can save a lot. I also know people who came here, lived like kings (parties every weekend, dining out in posh restaurants, working 12 hours a week only) and they were surprised not to save much at the end of their stay in China.

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      I’m actually saving for my master’s degree in Europe so it’s not gonna be much travelling next year :-), but I’ll do my best to go to places I’ve always wanted to travel to.

  4. Avatar of PassportDave

    It is amazing how much money you can save up when you put your mind to it. Getting to enjoy such a fantastic country as China while actually making more money for travel must be like a dream come true. Just goes to show, if you want the life, it is always possible. Great post!

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Dave. Yes, if you really want to save money, you will, no matter where you are. China is giving you a great opportunity to do so while having a great time teaching kids some English :).

  5. Avatar of ardun

    Great breakdown Agness, very detailed. Good to hear you could save and still enjoy weekend trips through China. I might have to look into teaching in South America, I just don’t want to leave :)

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Ardun. Just wanted this post to be as much detailed as possible. Yeah you should definitely do some teaching in South America. I bet you won’t have any problems with finding a part-time job. That would be a great experience, go for it!! I’ve been following your adventures and it’s incredible how much fun you and your wife are having right now! Keep enjoying yourselves :)xx

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      Hey kochani. Jestesmy w Chinach juz prawie 2 lata. Wczesniej mieszkalismy w prowincji Hunan i Chongqing, teraz jestesmy przy samej granicy z Hong Kongiem. Chiny powalily nas pod wzgledem krajobrazu, uczynnosci ludzi, swietnego doswiadczenia w szkole jako nauczyciele, jedzenia i jakos nie mozemy stad wyjechac. W sierpniu planuje jednak przeprowadzke do Europy, moze Hoszpania, moze Francja :).

  6. Avatar of Irina

    I had no idea you guys get free housing and food at school. That’s awesome! Forwarding this to a friend who is struggling to find a full-time teaching job in Canada even after all the degrees and part-time experience.

  7. Avatar of Constance

    I agree! You can save a lot of money teaching English but the amount you save depends on the lifestyle you want to live. I paid off my student loan here within a couple of years but I worked A LOT of hours.

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder
      Agness Walewinder

      That’s great Constance! I’m saving for my uni as well right now, but not doing many hours as I am mainly working on my blog :).

  8. Avatar of Jess @UsedYorkCity

    Wow, this is fantastic! I think the huge draw is the free food and housing, as it really lets you save the majority of your salary! My friend did a similar program in Japan, but these things were out of pocket, thus it wasn’t as lucrative in the long run;-)

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Avatar of Grace Buchele

    This is great advice. I’m about to start teaching English in Japan (fingers crossed) and am trying to live on the bare minimum, so I can save up, travel, and do fun things.

    I love that you’re always providing interesting posts~

  10. Avatar of Colleen Brynn

    Yeah… I’ve never seen myself as a teacher in any way, so I can’t see myself doing this, but I definitely see the value in it! If I were keen enough and wanted to live overseas somewhere in Asia for an extended period of time, this would definitely be the way to go.

      1. Avatar of Cesar

        Hi, with the very big interest I read Your posts. During Last year I was thinking of going to China but till now it stays in planning phase. Country seem to be a good choice to go. You wrote about some other opportunities then teaching. I’m an architect with a long experience. Is there still development in construction field ? Work in my profession and get knowledge about the country would be a great opportunity to me. I focus to work in Asia Countries.
        What your advices about the idea would be – where in China to go to get a job and have a pleasant life.

  11. Avatar of Vincent

    Hi! I was referred here by another website where you said you teach in Dongguan. What is it like for a foreigner to live there? Do people speak English? I’ve lived in Chengdu for almost 3 years but I’m afraid I will feel lonely or alienated in Dongguan. Can you give some more insight about this? Very very very much appreciated :) Best of luck and renshi ni hen gaoxing!

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder

      Hi Vincent. Dongguan is a huge city and we live in Dalang district which is not very busy. There are not many foreigners here so you might feel a little bit isolated. I would recommend to work and live in Dongcheng. Not many people speak basic English, but we do speak some Chinese so it’s much easier for us. Send me an e-mail at [email protected] with all questions you have and I’ll be more than happy to answer them :). Thanks!

  12. Avatar of Heather

    I’ve only been away from China for two months and I already miss it. We were able to save so much money, even in Shanghai! Might have to go back some day … :-)

    1. Avatar of Agness Walewinder

      Nice! I’m planning to continue my Master’s degree in Europe next year and that makes me miss China already :).

  13. Avatar of Beth

    Great info guys! Throughout the past year of living in HK, I’ve been slowly working on a similar article.

    I think it’s awesome you guys get accommodation covered. If that were the case here, we could save so much more.

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